For several hours in Benin City, the Edo State capital, on Monday, passengers were stranded as marked taxi and minibus operators withdrew their services.
The drivers protested along major roads in Benin City, alleged extortion by members of the National Union of Roads Transport Workers (NURTW) and Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) outside their official daily payment of N400 each per day.
Their protest caused gridlock in adjoining roads leading to the King’s Square (Ring Road), as motorists made use of alternative routes around the Government Reservation Area.
Passengers were seen trekking long distances along Airport Road, Benin-Sapele Road, Sakpoba Road, Akpakpava Road, among other major roads, while unmarked taxis made brisk business as they took the place of regular taxis.
A road user, Moses Ugbenu, said he trekked from Oko Central Road to Airport Road before he was able to get a vehicle that took him to his destination.
The protesting drivers, who stormed the premises of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, along Reservation Road in Benin City, said they were forcefully made to pay several levies daily.
Leader of the protesting drivers, Richard Owali, said, “Government told us that the ticket we will pay daily is N400. NURTW N100, RTEAN N100, local government N100 while state government also collects N100 and when you are moving to another local government area, you pay an extra N100.
“Our problem is that after paying this N400 to the state government account, these two unions still send their men to our parks to forcefully collect N200 each from us and if you don’t pay, they will be at your and throw one into the gutter.
“When we challenge them, they mobilise more of their members from several parks to attack us, we are tired and we want the government to come to our rescue. The government should tell us who to pay to.”
Another driver, Emmanuel Makachi, said, “Most of our drivers have been injured; many of them are not here because of the injuries they have sustained.”
Yet, another driver, Victor Edosonmwan, said, “What we do is to balance and carry and we have agreed to pay the amount as stated by the government but for over two weeks they have been beating anyone of us who don’t pay. The government did not tell us that these lions and tigers will come back to the road again. We are scared of working now.”
Efforts to reach the leadership of the two unions were not successful as the leaders did not pick any of their calls as of the time of filing in this report.
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